Print your own life-size robot for under $1,000

Story highlights

  • French sculptor Gael Langevin has created life-like, affordable open-source robot
  • The designs for each body part can be downloaded and built using a 3D printer
  • Langevin developed the robot after creating a prosthetic hand for a commercial photo shoot

"It's about as difficult as assembling a cupboard from IKEA," says Gael Langevin, but he's not talking about an affordable piece of Scandinavian furniture. The 41-year-old French sculptor and model-maker is referring to his open-source, life-size, 3D-printed robot.

Known as InMoov, Langevin's animatronic creation can be made by anyone with access to little more than a basic 3D printer, a few motors, a cheap circuit board and about $800.

Langevin has been developing InMoov in his spare time since the beginning of last year and, he stresses, it's all still very much a work in progress. So far the robot boasts a head, arms and hands and the torso is not far off.

Read: Nano-coating provides watertight solution

Invention makes objects liquid repellent
Invention makes objects liquid repellent


    Invention makes objects liquid repellent


Invention makes objects liquid repellent 04:07
'Credit card computer' enhances learning
'Credit card computer' enhances learning


    'Credit card computer' enhances learning


'Credit card computer' enhances learning 04:00

On completion of each body part, Langevin shares the printer files and assembly instructions on his dedicated blog.

"I've also posted some programming instructions -- so you can make it respond to voice-activated commands," he says. "It can grab hold of things, tilt its head and move its arms around in various ways ... and when I get around to building some legs, that's when things will get really interesting."

The project began when Langevin was asked to create to a prosthetic hand for a commercial photo shoot. He'd recently brought a 3D printer to play with at home, so thought this would be a "good way to test it out," he recalls.

Although he confesses to being a "coding novice," Langevin taught himself how to use Arduino -- a very cheap and increasingly popular microcontroller -- so that he could get his prosthetic hand to move.

Read: Patently simple? Advice for inventors

He posted the bodiless limb to Thingiverse -- a digital design file sharing site -- and was swamped with enthusiastic responses. The users began printing and building their own versions, and wanted to see more. So Langevin obliged.

"Each individual part is small enough to be printed on the cheapest range of 3D printers available to the public" he says, noting that most of the robots you read about are both prohibitively expensive and "kind of ugly."

Despite the sci-fi appearance of his creation, Langevin's vision for the InMoov robot is remarkably quaint.

"It's something to make with the family on weekends," he says. "When she was very young, my daughter said she wanted to build a plane and various other incredible things ... this robot shows you can build anything you like."

      Make Create Innovate

    • Designed by UK-based engineers Reaction Engines Ltd, the Skylon project is a radical idea for future space travel.

      Spaceship: Reinvented

      Engineer Alan Bond has been developing a new concept for space travel for over 30 years -- and his creation is now on the verge of lift off.
    • Our "self-healing" future

      Crumbling buildings, burnt-out PCs, and cracked screens -- a new generation of "self-healing" technologies could soon consign them to history.
    • Alpha Sphere

      'Hacked' instruments unleashed

      Singing Tesla coils, musical ice cream, vegetables on drums... and this ball? Find out how "hackers" have created a new generation of instruments.
    • Meet the biohackers

      Forget wearable tech, embeddable implants are here. Learn more about the pioneers who are implanting devices into their bodies.
    • A visitor of the 'NEXT Berlin' technology conference tries out Google Glass, a wearable computer that responds to voice commands and displays information before your eyes. It is expected to go to market in late 2013.

      Wearables in the workplace

      We know how wearable tech can enhance our fitness lives but there's evidence that its most significant application is yet to come: the workplace.
    • iRobot's newest Roomba 880 vacuum cleaning robot

      The military tech inside Roomba

      iRobot, creators of vacuuming robot Roomba reveal how they learned from secret experiments -- in space travel, minefields, and toys.